NPA rebels launch fresh attacks, condemn Duterte for ending talks
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Communist guerrillas abducted three villagers, including a policeman, and burned construction equipment in new attacks on Thursday as they condemned President Rodrigo Duterte as a “double-speaking thug” for terminating peace talks.
Government forces were pursuing about 60 suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who separately seized the three people and burned construction equipment in the far-flung town of Talakag in Bukidnon province, Army officials said.
The rebels burned a backhoe and two trucks at a construction company compound in Talakag apparently after failing to extort money from the firm, said Col. Eric Vinoya, an Army brigade commander in Bukidnon.
The abducted police officer was traveling on a motorcycle when taken at gunpoint by the rebels, he said.
The rebels also burned two trucks transporting copper ore in Itogon, Benguet province, but didn’t harm the drivers, police said.
Army troops backed by rocket-firing MG520 helicopters were pursuing the rebels, said the Benguet police chief, Senior Supt. Florante Camuyot.
A day earlier, rebels killed an Army soldier in an attack in Santo Niño town in Cagayan province. A statement from the rebels operating in Cagayan Valley said the attack was in response to the government’s all-out war declaration.
The President lifted the government’s ceasefire, discarded Norway-brokered peace talks and revoked the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), after the guerrillas abandoned their own truce and killed six soldiers and kidnapped two others last week.
“Duterte has gone berserk and upturned the entire peace process,” the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said in a statement. His moves show “how difficult it is to conduct serious negotiations with a double-speaking thug who only recognizes his own rules.”
The government’s all-out war will be “completely frustrated,” the CPP said, citing how government troops have been overstretched fighting them and other insurgents, including Moro militant groups in Mindanao.
Fidel Agcaoili, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, said in a statement that there was “no fair and just reason” to terminate the entire negotiations considering the “significant advances made in the substantive agenda of the peace negotiations” in the latest round of talks held last month in Rome.
Agcaoili referred to agreements in principle on the free distribution of land to farmers and farm workers, support for the shift to a federal system of government pushed by Mr. Duterte, and discussion of a possible bilateral ceasefire later this month.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Año played down the rebels’ rhetoric, saying nobody believes the insurgent fighters, currently estimated to number 3,700, could succeed in their rebellion even in 100 years.
They squandered their chance by waging attacks on troops that led to the collapse of the peace talks, he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM KARLOS MANLUPIG, MELVIN GASCON, KIMBERLIE QUITASOL AND AP